I don’t think anyone can truly prepare you for having a hysterectomy in your 30s. If you had spoken to me at 25, I would have easily told you that I envisioned myself having at least two children. The possibility that I wouldn’t physically be able to never even crossed my mind.
As a woman, the ability to get pregnant and carry a child is often viewed as a given. I’ve come to learn that this is not the reality for so many of us. Infertility, being unable to keep a healthy pregnancy or carry a child of your own, can leave you feeling like you belong in the “other” category. When in reality, you are in the same boat as a lot of women. You just don’t know it because the personal shame, isolation and stigma that comes with it keeps many of us from ever talking about it publicly.
Infertility can leave you feeling like you belong in the “other” category.
At the age of 30, I was diagnosed with a disease called adenomyosis. Adenomyosis is when the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows into the muscular wall of the uterus. Some common symptoms include severe cramps (I’m talking drop-to-your-knees type of cramps), heavy menstrual bleeding and pain during sex. The only definitive cure for this disease is a hysterectomy.
At the time, having children was so far from my mind, I didn’t give too much thought to the gravity of this diagnosis. I tried conservative measures to manage my pain: medications, heating pads, physical therapy and acupuncture. You name it, I tried it. I even agreed to a very complicated surgery where the nerves leading to my uterus were cut in order to prevent me from feeling physical pain from my “junky” uterus, as I liked to call it (drastic, I know).
I did everything I could to buy myself time before I submitted to the dreaded “H” word. Despite all of my best efforts, my health was severely suffering in my attempt to hold onto my uterus for as long as I possibly could. At this point, whether or not I even wanted children at all was a serious question weighing on my mind. I weighed the pros and cons and decided that I had so many things I still wanted to do before having children.
The immense societal pressure that told me my sole purpose on this earth was to reproduce left me feeling stuck. Logically, it felt wreckless to have a child if I wasn’t absolutely positive about it.
To me, it didn’t make sense to continue to live in pain for something I wasn’t even certain that I wanted. Ultimately, my quality of life took priority over the ability to bear a child. I went into my surgery very confident in my decision. I knew it was the best one for me.
Yet, even knowing this, the grief that hit me after my hysterectomy was indescribable. How do you properly grieve over something that was never even yours? I unexpectedly found myself in an endless cycle of sadness, shame and regret.
I knew it was the best one for me. Yet, even knowing this, the grief that hit me after my hysterectomy was indescribable.
So, what is having a hysterectomy and dealing with infertility in your 30s actually like?
It’s grieving over something that never existed. It’s wondering if a partner will still think you’re “enough.” It’s constantly feeling left out of a “club” you were never part of to begin with.
It’s society subliminally sending you messages that make you feel inadequate. It’s being happy for your friends that are expecting, but then needing to sometimes keep your distance as an act of self-preservation. It’s muting expectant mothers on social media. It’s desperately avoiding baby showers and feeling tremendous guilt for doing so.
It’s desperately avoiding baby showers and feeling tremendous guilt for doing so.
It’s having women tell you that being a mother is the most important job you will ever have without realizing that may never be a possibility for you. It’s facing people who intrusively ask, “So when are you going to have kids?”
It’s choosing to believe that eventually, time, love and grace will heal your wounds and fill what sometimes feels like a never-ending void. It will undoubtedly take more time than you want it to, but I promise, you will get there.
What message does culture send about a woman’s value/purpose and its relation to motherhood? Do you know someone who has had a hysterectomy? If you were unable to have biological children, how do you think you would feel?
Image via Raisa Zwart Photography